City 2.0: Using tech building blocks in tomorrow's urban centers

mundanemushroomsΗλεκτρονική - Συσκευές

21 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 9 μήνες)

84 εμφανίσεις

City 2.0: Using tech building blocks in tomorrow's urban centers


It's closer than you may think and is mostly a matter of connecting all the pieces

John Brandon


May 15, 2009

(Computerworld)

Science

fiction writers call it
Utopia
, the glorious City of the Future. But
short of downtown atriums being guarded by invisible walls and flying cars, City 2.0 is not as far off as
you may think.

Ubiquitous wireless networks are already available in cities incl
uding Baltimore and Minneapolis,
corporations such as Thomson Reuters have sustainable data centers that sell power back to the local
utility, the
smar
t energy grid

is well on its way, and city
-
provided social networks are common. Indeed,
the next steps toward the city of tomorrow are all about integrating these services cohesively, making
them widely available across the entire metropolis and managing
the services more efficiently.

"The reality is that the city of the future will likely have many aspects of a contained and managed
ecosystem," says Rob Enderle, a consumer analyst with Enderle Group based in San Jose, Calif.

While the concept of City 2.0

is monumental, these key technology advancements are already helping
pave the road to the next
-
generation city.

Smart grid

The smart use of energy is one of the most important goals for urban centers today. The
smart grid
concept

centers around the idea of using electricity when it's available cheaply, rather than at peak
times when it's more expensive, and allows wind and solar and other renewable sou
rces to be
integrated into the energy grid. This requires two
-
way communication between utility companies and
the businesses and individuals who use their power. We're nowhere near a comprehensive smart grid
yet, but some cities and energy companies are ta
king steps in that direction.


Today, a few cities, such as
Boulder, Colo.

and
Ho
uston
, have pilot programs where customers can
visit a Web site to see their real
-
time energy usage.
Google is currently testing

a PowerMet
er project
so employees can see not only how much energy they're using, but when and for what.
EnerNOC
, a
provider of IP
-
based sensors and monitoring, is giving financial incentives to customers and ut
ility
companies that adjust supply and demand according to real
-
time data.

A good example of smart grid technology in action is at the Des Moines, Iowa state capitol grounds,
where city officials have set up a smart grid that feeds to a central kiosk. It
shows the power usage for
each building in the capitol complex. To create the smart grid, the capitol buildings were wired with
sensors that connect a fiber backbone, feed through a central server and then report usage data in
real time to the kiosk.

"Toda
y, departments have no incentive to save power from a government perspective," says State
CIO John Gillispie. "We are working toward billing the individual departments for how much they use."

Gillispie is already planning on adding sensors for floor
-
level
power monitoring, and envisions a day
when sensors are added across the state and in multiple cities
--

even on roadways and in cars, office
buildings, schools and homes.

City
-
centric social networking

We're all familiar by now with using public social net
works to catch up with friends and family or even
to
find a job
, but wouldn't it be nice if your city had a social network where you could keep abreas
t of
local developments and weigh in on neighborhood issues?

In Dublin, Ohio, the city operates a Novell Teaming portal where government officials can run blogs,
chat over instant messaging and share documents. In the next few months, the city plans to ma
ke the
private network available to all citizens. In a future city scenario, a social network like this could allow
residents to submit ideas for city improvements, chat with politicians and blog about their
neighborhood over a secure and city
-
centric port
al that caters to their local needs.

San Jose, Calif., is one of the most high
-
tech cities in the U.S. Over the next few years, the city will
create a social network on
Wikiplanning

that helps citizens
learn about the city, chat over instant
messaging, complete surveys and download city podcasts.

"Frequently, only small groups of residents come to public meetings, and in the case of a multiple
meeting project, it's largely the same group of citizens who

continue to participate," says Kim Walesh,
San Jose's chief strategist. "Participation by small groups may not offer a good representation of the
community as a whole. An advantage of Wikiplanning is that activities can be done day or night at the
user's
convenience, allowing for far greater participation by people in the workforce."

WiMax and citywide wireless

The concept of readily available wireless service has been around the block a few times, so to speak.
Cities such as
Philadelphia

and
Chicago

have tried to provide Wi
-
Fi access without too much success.
Minneapolis

is one of the few large cities that have deployed Wi
-
Fi successfully.


In Portland, a Wi
-
Fi network
didn't fare so well

either, but a WiMax project seems to be off to
a much
stronger start
.

WiMax
, widely seen as the
next generation of mobile data access

after W
i
-
Fi, stalled over the past few
years due to the complexity of the technology, changes in partnerships and reluctance on the part of
city officials to adopt an emerging technology. Even so,
WiMax promises more ubiquitous access

than
Wi
-
Fi, because Wi
-
Fi hot spots require users to seek them out but WiMax is available throughout a
given area. WiMax requires fewer base stations across the metropolis, at a
lower infrastructure cost,
using licensed spectrum that does not interfere with other wireless LANs.

Tim Sweeney, a product manager at Intel, says the
prospe
cts of WiMax

for cities are high because it
means greater bandwidth for city services.

"Wi
-
Fi was never intended to support a wide area; it is really for inside buildings," he says. Sweeney
gave a future city scenario where cars report their fuel tank le
vels over WiMax, gas stations bid on the
cost of fuel, and an electric car communicates with a smart grid about its energy usage
--

whether an
alternative route would save on power used.

Sustainable data center

Sustainability is a key part of future citie
s. The idea is that a highly efficient, well
-
monitored and
"green"
data center

could allow a city to realize major energy
-
savings benefits. It would al
so lead to being able
to use data centers for most city services, not just for computing. For example, a single city data center
could provide services for government and monitor automobile traffic in city streets. Today, these
functions are wildly dispara
te and difficult to consolidate.

According to Enderle, most city services are not connected to each other today, but some individual
components such as electrical usage in government buildings already have the sensors required for
monitoring city services
. At some point in the next 10 years, cities will need to decide when patching
an aging infrastructure no longer makes sense and will instead start using more modern technology,
Enderle says. In a sustainable data center model, city services could be part
of a vast "network of
networks" that monitors real
-
time power, water, wireless and data usage for all citizens.

One example of how this sustainability could be tied to city services is at Thomson Reuters, a news
and information gathering service that oper
ates 100,000 square feet of multiple data centers for its
Westlaw division in Eagan, Minn. Rick King, the global head of technology and operations, has
designed operations with close ties to the local Dakota Electric utility.

The company has about 900
batt
eries in one data center and four diesel generators in another, which it uses as a backup for power
delivered by the local utility. The company also has two massive diesel fuel tanks. Today, the company
uses the batteries for short bursts (about 15 minutes
) of backup power and can use its generators for a
day or two as needed, allowing the local utility to sell the unused power.

Enterprise IT today serves as an excellent example of how future cities could operate. Thomson
Reuters monitors 15,000 IT assets
such as servers and storage arrays in real time in a central
operations center, and the power usage is controlled automatically
--

when the diesel generators are
needed, they start up on their own. Extending this model to a city could mean that power compa
nies
are highly connected, and home owners could even see their own usage at the individual appliance
level to be able to adjust usage patterns, tying back into the notion of the previously mentioned smart
grid.

How the cloud ties it all together

It's eas
y to see how the cloud could contribute to future cities. There might be a central command
center for monitoring and adjusting power usage and for providing IT services over WiMax, but the
actual IT operation could be "in the cloud" and abstracted from a p
hysical data center.

Yankee Group calls this the Anywhere initiative, which is partly about making mobility in a city
infrastructure more flexible, efficient and scalable. In this model, anything can be an end point,
including portable gadgets, your vehic
le, an office building and your home.

Jeffrey Breen, chief technology officer at the Yankee Group, says that the IP
-
based, packet
-
switched
cloud model in the enterprise can apply to city infrastructure
--

that is, as a vast, interconnected smart
grid and
social network with widespread and reliable wireless access. Mobile citizens would be a click
away from city services.

"One way or another, we will get to the point in cities where anyone who wants high
-
speed access will
get it
--

and the city won't have
to worry about the details of how," says Breen.

A highly connected city with smart grids, widely available wireless access and a sustainable data
center is well within reach. Over the next 20 years, cities in the U.S. and abroad will likely take these
and

other steps toward the goal, building the infrastructure with a view towards better connectivity and
better living.

John Brandon is a veteran of the computing industry, having worked as an IT manager for ten years
and a tech journalist for another ten. H
e has written over 2,000 feature articles. He is a regular
contributor to
Computerworld
.